Feeling anxious? Here's how to calm down quickly.

Experts share simple ways to stop anxiety in its tracks. (Getty Images)
Experts share simple ways to stop anxiety in its tracks. (Getty Images)

Anxiety can present itself in different ways. You might suddenly feel overwhelmed by the challenges you’re dealing with — be it work, a relationship issue and so on — and can’t quite snap out of that stressed-out state. If you’re feeling a powerful sense of fear or doom paired with a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and even chest pain, you might be experiencing a panic attack. The experience can be uncomfortable and bewildering, but experts say there are techniques that can help steer you out of that anxious moment.

It can be difficult to predict or recognize the early signs of emotional distress, according to Jenny Woo, an emotional intelligence researcher, founder and CEO of Mind Brain Emotion and author of 52 Essential Coping Skills and 52 Essential Coping Skills for Kids. However, being attuned to your emotions and triggers is key to staying in control.

“Take a few minutes each day to reflect on your feelings and the things that annoyed you,” she tells Yahoo Life. “This frequent emotional check-in will help you detect negative thinking patterns and personal triggers. Practicing mindfulness and meditation will also help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings as they occur in real time.”

Ahead, experts share other tips for calming down when you’re feeling anxious or panicky. “Being prepared with these techniques can provide a sense of control and reduce the fear of future episodes, which can be a trigger for anxiety,” says Woo.

Focusing on your breath is the first step to take, according to Daun Baker, a licensed psychologist and director of psychological services at virtual care company Amwell. “Take slow, deep breaths, focusing on filling your lungs completely and then exhaling slowly. This activates the body’s relaxation response and calms the nervous system,” she tells Yahoo Life.

Research shows that incorporating breathing exercises into your day-to-day — for even just a few minutes — makes the method increasingly effective for alleviating anxiety. Various techniques can be used, such as box breathing, lion’s breath or cyclic sighing. But it’s most important to make sure that there’s an increase in oxygen flow throughout the body. “It can be helpful to place one hand on your diaphragm to ensure you are breathing deeply,” says Baker.

Grounding techniques are exercises that can help pull you out of an anxious state. Woo says they’re “crucial, as they help bring a person back to the present moment, diverting focus from anxiety or panic and reducing the intensity of the symptoms.”

An easy way to do this is to focus individually on each of your five senses. This is often referred to as the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Woo refers to it in her work as “Take the Elevator Down.”

“Identify and name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste,” she says. This can be done at the earliest signs of anxiety or to interrupt the fight-or-flight response during a panic attack.

While muscle tension can be a physical sign of anxiety, it can also be used to help alleviate it. Multiple studies have shown this effect of progressive muscle relaxation on individuals experiencing situational or generalized anxiety.

“Start by tensing each muscle group in your body, one at a time, and then relaxing,” says Baker, who notes that it’s easiest to start at the top of your body, like the forehead, and work your way down toward your feet — or vice versa. It’s most important to notice the difference between the tension and relaxation, and to repeat the routine until you’ve reached a relaxed state.

Research shows that visualizing a natural environment can be as effective in reducing anxiety as being in nature itself; hence the practice of guided imagery. Woo calls it a “staycation.”

“Calm your nerves by taking a mental trip to somewhere that brings you a sense of peace. For example, visualize a peaceful white sandy beach and focus on its sensory details,” she says. “This helps you shift your mind away from triggers.”

“Engage in physical activity, even if it’s just a short walk or some stretching,” says Baker. “Exercise releases endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce anxiety.”

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America suggests that making movement a regular part of your routine is important, and only needs to take up 15 to 20 minutes of your day. Other ways to increase the mental health benefits of your workouts include making it social and exercising outdoors.

“Talk to a trusted friend, family member or therapist about what you’re experiencing. Sometimes, simply expressing your feelings can help alleviate anxiety,” says Baker. And depending on the severity of your symptoms, she suggests checking in with a doctor. “Given the physiological symptoms common to both anxiety and panic attacks, it is critical to get evaluated by a health professional to rule out or identify any underlying medical conditions.”